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Punchestown: Cheltenham winner among favs bismarcked on Day 1

| 28.04.2015

The first day of the jumps season’s final festival is upon us and two impressive Cheltenham Festival Grade 1-winners are odds-on to follow up at Punchestown.

Supreme Novices’ Hurdle winner Douvan is 2/9 to land the Herald Champion Novice Hurdle at 16:20, while RSA Chase boss Don Poli is 2/5 to best a small, but select field in the Growise Novice Chase at 18:40.

However, while the former looks a certainty to record his fourth successive win under rules, there is reason to distrust his Willie Mullins-stablemate’s chances of joining him among the winners.

Don Poli may be 8lbs ahead of Apache Stronghold (6/1) and Valseur Lido (7/1) on ratings , but his contest has been a graveyard for favourites over the last decade.

Sir Des Champs is the sole jolly to oblige since 2005 and he was sent off even shorter than this year’s overwhelming market leader, winning at just 2/7.

Moreover, the mount of Brian Cooper has previous for not following up a March Cheltenham triumph at Punchestown.

Last year he was bested by Nicky Henderson’s Beat That despite being the top-rated protagonist in the Grade 1 novice hurdle over 3m.

Don Poli was seemingly outstayed in the process for all he has garnered a reputation as none-more-stout stayer since.

A maximum field size of five is unlikely to see him to best effect either, with such races’ tendency to put an emphasis on tactical speed over stamina.

Elsewhere on the card, Champagne Fever is another Closutton-stabled favourite who looks vulnerable at 3/1 to land the Punchestown Champion Chase at 17:30.

Champagne Fever at Cheltenham 2013Susannah Ricci’s grey was sent off market leader at evens and 5/4 at the past two Festivals, off the back of a first and a head second at Cheltenham respectively.

Like a cheese board containing particularly aged varieties of Camembert, Brie, Limburger and Stilton, he stunk the place out on both occasions, a 17l third behind Jezki in 2013 and a woeful 15l-plus behind God’s Own last year.

Shark Hanlon’s Hidden Cyclone could be the one to take advantage at 7/2, with shrewder judges than your correspondent disappointed to see the Tied Cottage Chase winner swerve the Champion Chase for the Ryanair at Cheltenham.

Considering he’s won five of his seven career runs at 2m dead it’s not hard to see why.

However, the suspicion is that four-timer-seeker Felix Yonger, who looks a decent each-way price at 6/1, may pip him to the prize.

The Graham Wylie-owned nine-year-old bypassed the rigours of the Cheltenham, where Hidden Cyclone finished a tired 25l-sixth.

Instead he showed a great turn of foot to score on soft ground he hated at Navan at the end of March, after which Willie Mullins said this race would be his target.

All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing.

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Thomas Reynolds